Unwanted false alarms

An unwanted false alarm occurs when we respond to an emergency call to find there is no emergency requiring our attendance.

We respond to a significant number of unwanted false alarm calls per year.

Unwanted false alarms can:

  • put lives at risk due to a "culture of complacency" created by unwanted false alarms
  • cause business downtime due to evacuations
  • mean firefighting resources are unavailable for genuine emergencies
  • increase the risk of accident and injury to firefighters and the public when attending unwanted and unnecessary call-out under lights and sirens
  • add to maintenance costs for building owners and managers if they are the result of inefficient alarms.

Main causes for UFAs

  • poor ventilation
  • burnt toast
  • cooking fumes
  • steam
  • aerosol sprays
  • cigarettes and candles
  • tradespeople
  • cleaners
  • dirty smoke detectors
  • damage to "break glass alarms" (BGAs) or manual call points (MCPs)
  • dust
  • poorly maintained systems
  • insect infestation

We have implemented measures to reduce the number of unwanted false alarms by:

  • charging for attendance to UFAs
  • amendments to legislation to raise the standard of fire alarm systems and their maintenance
  • developing partnerships with all the key stakeholders - the CFS, building owners/occupiers and the fire protection industry
  • community education programs and information.

You can manage your site:

  • Ensure your fire alarm system is tested and maintained to the relevant Standards by a professional fire alarm technician.
  • Maintain a detailed log of all unwanted false alarms. This can show you causal factors, such as occupant or system behavioural patterns and faulty components.
  • Implement and enforce an on-site works’ management plan that will prevent activations by tradespeople using welders, blowers, and the like.
  • Protect and isolate detectors when undertaking work which generates dust, smoke, steam, or when using spray paint and other materials.
  • Manage work activities that produce dust, heat, smoke etc. to ensure workers do not activate a detector.
  • Ventilate steam and fumes away from smoke detectors particularly from bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Use the building public address system to tell occupants and visitors of the reason for the alarm activation.
  • Provide information to staff, tenants, clients, tradespeople and visitors on how to effectively live and work with the installed fire alarm system.

You can review building design:

  • Ensure the building components provide adequate ventilation, especially in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry areas.
  • When designing or renovating ensure detectors are suitable for the occupancy.

You can educate your occupants. They should:

  • NOT walk away from a toaster that has been reset to darken toast
  • NOT leave cooking unattended
  • NOT smoke near smoke detectors
  • NOT direct aerosol spray at smoke detectors

Legislative Requirements - If you are an owner/occupier, you must:

  • ensure your fire alarm system is maintained to Australian Standards by a certified maintenance technician.
  • keep a maintenance logbook with your company's name and contact details adjacent to the Fire Indicator Panel (FIP). You should record sequentially all known alarms, faults, disconnections, maintenance, and inspection procedures. (Clause 4.2 of AS1851.8 -1987) Further maintenance recording requirements are legislated under the SA Development Act 1993, Ministers Specification SA76.
  • complete A Certificate of Maintenance annually and send to your relevant council's Building Inspector. Your maintenance company should be able to provide this for you.
  • ensure all fire alarm zones are in operational condition unless specifically isolated for the purposes of maintenance of the system or other acceptable reason e.g. workers are in the area, smoke machine operating. These isolated sections must be restored to operational effectiveness as soon as possible. It is your responsibility to take any additional fire precautions and to advise the building's occupants about the isolated sections of the fire alarm system.
  • have a fire and evacuation plan detailing the course of action to be taken by the occupants in the event of a fire or other emergency.
  • give all persons permanently working or residing in the building instruction on what to do in the event of a fire.
  • keep records of the training given and produce them if asked by an authorised Fire Officer.
  • not silence the alarm system or Early Warning and Intercommunication System (EWIS) once activated until a search of the area indicated on the alarm panel has been made. Once it has been established there is no danger to the occupants the EWIS system may be silenced.

More information